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Small Business Meal Prep Company Perseveres In A Covid Climate; Offers Healthy Eating Options To Community

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COMMUNITY BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT

By Zach Schrader

Tuesday, November 03, 2020 — PrepLIFE Meal Prep Grill’s co-founders Kevin Pascual and Keith Perez have worked hard and came a long way growing this business and giving back to their community over the past five years. When they first began operating they cooked all the meals out of Kevin’s father’s kitchen and delivered them to customers themselves. Five years later they were able to open prepLIFE’s first commercial restaurant location. With no prior business experience or schooling, they learned how to run a business on the job.

prepLIFE owners Kevin Pascual (L) and Keith Perez (R)

Kevin highlighted “perseverance, resilience, and sticking to the vision” as their keys to growing this business over the years. However, this process has not been without setbacks, and maybe none bigger than opening their doors right as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning.

A major part of prepLIFE’s strategy was the store being located in the same lot as a 24 Hour Fitness, and they had hoped gym goers would come grab a healthy meal after their workout. When the gym had closed due to the pandemic, a parking lot that was normally packed with the exact customer they had hoped to attract had become empty.

Though these were not the opening circumstances they had hoped for, they have focused on the positives and even have been able to make it work out in their favor in some ways. Kevin described this opening as a “long soft opening”, allowing them to figure everything out and get their team working together smoothly without it being too hectic. Keith added, “If we can be successful and thrive during a pandemic, when the economy fully comes back we will be more than okay.”

As natives to the Inland Empire, Kevin and Keith have been very active in giving back to the community through prepLIFE. Kevin attributed this to “How we were brought up… we were raised to always give back to the community and do our part.”

PrepLIFE has held an event on Thanksgiving every year since they’ve been in business called Thanks4Giving, where members of the community come to pick up free meals and distribute them out to those in need. In light of the pandemic, this year’s Thanks4Giving will be a drive through but everything else will be the same as previous years. PrepLIFE’s motto, “eat with purpose” highlights their commitment to give back to the community by providing healthy meals with the same convenience and affordable price as a typical fast food place. Keith said “I think this is something the community needs, and the entire country needs more of.”

Interview conducted by Zach Schrader, Contributing Reporter for the Inland Empire Business Journal.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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Commercial Real Estate

Court Appoints Receiver to Oversee Former American Sports University Dormitory in San Bernardino

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The San Bernardino Superior Court has placed the former American Sports University Dormitory, located at 340 West Fourth Street under receivership. In a ruling dated January 18, 2024, Judge Thomas Garza appointed Richardson Griswold of Griswold Law in Encinitas as Receiver.

“We are pleased that Judge Garza has granted our motion to appoint a Receiver,” said San Bernardino City Manager Charles Montoya. “He agreed that the site conditions have likely worsened since we made our initial request for a receiver a year ago and the property poses a danger to the community.”

Under the powers granted by the Court, Griswold is authorized 1) to rehabilitate the property; 2) demolish the building, or 3) sell the property to an entity who will promptly undertake the rehabilitation and correct the identified deficiencies and violations.

Receiver Richardson “Red” Griswold has extensive experience as a court appointed receiver. He has been appointed by over 180 California courts in 21 different California counties, including appointments related to health & safety, rents, post-judgment, and partition matters. Griswold also acts as an expert witness in cases involving habitability standards. He will report directly to Judge Garza and will enforce the judge’s orders to protect the building from additional break-ins and damage.

In its ruling, the court found “the substandard conditions on the Subject Property are ongoing and will likely persist unless this Court appoints a receiver to take possession of the Subject Property and undertake responsibility for its rehabilitation.”

The court found that the property is a public nuisance and is being maintained in a manner that violates State and local laws. The violations at the property are so extensive and of such a nature that the health and safety of neighboring residents and the general public is substantially endangered.

The court stated that the property owners did not comply with City issued notices and orders to correct the substandard conditions, despite being afforded a reasonable opportunity to correct the conditions.

The court also ordered that Ji Li, Fox Property Holdings, and its representatives are prohibited from entering the building without the Receiver’s permission, making any changes to existing insurance policies, selling or encumbering the building, or collecting rents or other income from the building.

The property at 340 West 4th Street has been a challenging property for several years. Used as an unpermitted housing facility by Ji Li and Fox Property Holdings, tenants were subjected to unsafe and unlivable conditions including black mold, inoperative fire alarms and sprinklers, blocked fire escapes, and insect and rodent infestations.

San Bernardino had been working through the Civil Court process to take control of the building the past eighteen months. In that time, Ji Li and Fox Property Holdings of Irwindale, have ignored court orders, including a September 2022 Temporary Restraining Order requiring them to pay to relocate tenants and make all required repairs to the building.

Due to the unsafe conditions, on August 17, 2023, the City of San Bernardino red tagged the building, relocating the tenants that still remained. Despite boarding up the property, there have been repeated fires and break-ins.

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Community

San Manuel Orange County Golf Tournament Raises $425,000 for Five Tribal, Local & National Nonprofits

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24th Annual Tournament Recognizes O.C. based Meals on Wheels and Radiant Futures Among Others 

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Tribal leaders, business and community partners united for this year’s annual golf tournament to raise $425,000 for tribal, local and national nonprofits, making it the largest year for funds raised at the annual event. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has donated more than $3 million to 50 nonprofit organizations as a result of its annual golf tournament. The tournament was the first Tribal event at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club since the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians acquired an interest in the property earlier this year. 

The annual event commenced on July 16 with a celebration and a check presentation of $85,0000 each to five inspiring tribal, local and national nonprofits. The following nonprofits were awarded: Lakota Waldorf School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota dedicated to providing an exemplary education to reservation students while incorporating their culture; Voices for Children which serves children in Riverside and San Diego County who are in foster care by providing court appointed special advocates; Citrus Counseling Services located in Redlands which provides mental health services at low or no cost; Radiant Futures of Orange County provides crisis support, services for survivors, and education to prevent domestic violence and human trafficking; and Meals on Wheels OC which provides programming to nourish the wellness of senior citizens in Orange County. 

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairwoman, Lynn Valbuena, says she is moved by the community’s commitment to providing a hand up to nonprofits that are dedicated to making a difference regionally and throughout Indian Country.

“Each year I stand in awe of the thoughtfulness and generosity of our sponsors and partners to continue San Manuel’s mission of supporting organizations that are truly the boots on the ground for making our world a better place,” said San Manuel Chairwoman, Lynn Valbuena. “These five nonprofits are improving the lives of so many Native Americans, as well as local communities, and we are proud to help. The tournament is one of the many ways San Manuel demonstrates its value of giving back.” 

This year, golfers teed off on ocean-view golf courses at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach and Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point from Monday, July 17 to Thursday, July 20. 

Presenting sponsors of the tournament included Imagine This and PENTA Building Group. Yaamava’ Resort & Casino was also joined by its sports partners from the LA Dodgers, LAFC and the Anaheim Ducks.

Supporting nonprofit organizations is part of the Tribe’s commitment to their Giving Pillar also known as “San Manuel Cares.” For more information on San Manuel Care’s Program, please visit: www.sanmanuelcares.org

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Business

City of San Bernardino Planning for the Revitalization of Its Downtown

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The City of San Bernardino has proposed a set of initiatives, programs, and investments intended to revitalize its downtown area.

“When we transform our downtown, we transform San Bernardino.” said Interim City Manager Charles McNeely. “And that time is now.”

The Mayor and City Council were given a preview on June 30 of the initiatives planned to revitalize downtown. In the coming months, the City Council will be asked to approve many of the specific steps.

“Downtown San Bernardino is already a huge economic driver for our City,” added McNeely. “It has the potential to bring many more jobs, much more housing, and significantly more economic activity than there currently is.”

The downtown area accounts for only 1.4 percent of the city’s population, but accounts for 19 percent of the city’s jobs.

“To build upon the opportunities in downtown San Bernardino, the City has assembled a set of proposals that will take advantage of San Bernardino’s strengths,” said Economic Development Manager Amanda Hernandez. “Some are best practices; some are specific to San Bernardino. Collectively, they will make a tremendous impact.”

Among the proposals are:

  • Partnering with the Cal State San Bernardino Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) to create an Entrepreneurial Resource Center to offer programs and counseling to existing and startup businesses. Since its inception, IECE has counseled and trained nearly 150,000 existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, and students.
  • Evaluating the feasibility of using Court Street between D and E Streets as a pedestrian corridor to hold farmers markets, arts, culture, and food fairs, and other special events.
  • Partnering with downtown businesses and property owners to create a downtown property and business improvement district (PBID).
  • Working with Cal State, San Bernardino to develop a downtown satellite campus for select programs.
  • Authorizing the San Bernardino Police Department to hire additional officers to create a permanent downtown quality of life team to address safety issues specific to the downtown area. This would build upon a successful pilot project launched earlier this year downtown.
  • Working to revitalize City-owned property, including the Regal Cinema Plaza, the Convention Center, San Manuel Stadium – home of the 66ers, E Street retail sites, and the former Woolworth Building.
  • Conducting a preliminary Engineering and Space Study Plan to determine the next steps for San Bernardino’s City Hall.
  • Starting a $2.5 million renovation to the historic California Theater.
  • Adding additional economic development staff to focus on the attraction, retention, and expansion of businesses, housing, and employment.
  • Contracting with a real estate brokerage firm to market city-owned property.
  • Developing an economic development action plan to build upon recent planning efforts such as the downtown specific plan and investment playbook.
  • Launching a façade improvement program to enhance and upgrade building exteriors along key commercial corridors.
  • Developing a revolving loan program to provide emergency and ongoing financing to small businesses.
  • Exploring the creation of additional downtown special events to build upon the success of the Miracle on Court Street, Route 66 Rendezvous, Arts Fest, and Vegan Fest.

Some steps to revitalize downtown San Bernardino are already underway. In recent months, the City has:

  • Created a $3 million small business and non-profit grant program. The program, in partnership with the Small Business Development Center, awards grants between $10,000 and $35,000 to qualifying small businesses and non-profits who receive training on how to sustain and grow their business. A second round of funding will be available in the coming months.
  • Began a proactive review of downtown properties to ensure that owners maintain the physical appearance and condition of their properties. This is a result of recent Council actions to expand the size of the Code Enforcement department.
  • Investing $9 million into the refurbishment of Seccombe Lake Park. Conceptual plans were presented to the City Council on July 19.

“We are already seeing increased investment in downtown San Bernardino,” added Hernandez. “Entrepreneurs, investors recognize that the transformation is underway.” 

  • Last year, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted to consolidate and expand its footprint in downtown San Bernardino with the creation of a 307,000 square foot government center. This project will bring more employees to downtown San Bernardino and create additional demand for downtown business and housing options.
  • Several new restaurants are under construction on 5th street. This includes a second downtown Starbucks location, a Del Taco, and a Chipotle. In addition, the Planning Commission recently approved the expansion of the In-N-Out Burger and the construction of a Sonic restaurant.
  • Investors recently purchased the historic Heritage Building on Court Street with the intention of renovating the building and opening a new restaurant.
  • The owners of 330 D Street where Chase Bank is located recently created the shared workspace Studio D. Among its tenants are the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce and Music Changing Lives.

One of the biggest economic opportunities remains the 42-acre Carousel Mall property. Currently, the mall is being demolished, with planning underway to build the infrastructure needed to re-develop the property. Ultimately, the City will seek a private partner to develop the site with new housing and commercial development.

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